Copyright © 1995 A-Hameed Ali ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The pleasures of one who
had thus gone
like a tangerine sky.
I have been exploring the question of real relationships with others, particularly regarding how the negative emotions relate to love. The contemplative inquiry naturally surveys most of my significant relationships, investigating how I experience each relationship, and what determines the quality of each. The main issue turns out to be the mechanism of splitting, viewing a relationship as either negative or positive. More subtly, I observe the arising of aversion and hopelessness when there is negativity, and the arising of hope when there is love and positivity. Through this exploration there develops a capacity to continue to love regardless of the presence of negativity, mine or the other’s. The heart is becoming courageous. In this development there is a sense of maturity and objectivity.
Coinciding with this understanding, and more directly as a result of contemplating the developing courageousness of the heart, a certain essential structure begins to manifest. A clear crystalline presence appears in the chest, filling the whole thoracic cavity. It first appears as a tall dome-like structure, sitting in a large lotus. The presence feels hard like a crystal, but there is also the sensation of clarity pervading the chest cavity. This clarity imbues the crystalline solidity with such lightness that it feels empty. But it is not merely an emptiness, or a solid emptiness. The emptiness is so light it feels like total absence. In other words, the crystalline presence, although it seems solid and substantial, simultaneously feels as absolutely nonexistent. In fact, it feels like a solid clarity that is so clear that it is paradoxically absent. More particularly, it feels like the absence of anything in the chest. The chest cavity feels so empty and clear that I can only describe it as a total absence of anything that can be felt. The chest is a totally clear window.
It is as if the consciousness is so clear, so free from impediments and obstruction that there is nothing for it to sense or see. The sense of absence brings a sense of total freedom and release, and a lightness that transcends the concepts of lightness and heaviness.
The crystalline structure in the chest has the same quality of consciousness as what I have been experiencing as the nameless or nonconceptual transparent nature of everything. This same clarity of being is manifesting now as the nature of the heart. It feels quite different from how I usually experience heart, so different that it is difficult for the mind to accept it as heart.
How can heart be so empty that it feels like the very presence of absence? All this time, I have known heart to contain the very richness and fullness of Being.
It takes several days of contemplation, with curiosity and openness of mind, before I begin to understand the crystal structure, the crystal heart. This inquiry takes me through a process of becoming aware of a region of my soul that I have never seen so completely or so graphically. I become aware at some point of a certain unclarity in my consciousness that reveals, upon inquiry, a thick and opaque part of my soul. I feel, mostly in my belly and pelvis, some kind of a blobby structure of soul that appears polluted, dirty, almost nauseating. The first reaction is disgust and repulsion, but because of the presence of the crystal heart, and my true desire to see the truth of the situation, I am able to hold this arising manifestation of my soul with an open and inquiring mind. It becomes clear that the turbidity and obscuration in this soul structure is due to a constellation of desires, impulses, needs and wants.
This is a particular manifestation of the soul, the individual consciousness, that is structured by the patterns of identification originating from the oral stage of development, in the first few months of life. Some of the sources of this manifestation of the soul might be inherent to the soul, due to its physical orientation, and because of its lack of development and refinement. The consciousness arises here as an animal organism, ruled by instinctual desires and dominated by animal cravings. This manifestation of the soul is exposed fully only after a long process of refinement and clarification of consciousness. Once the more superficial ego structures become transparent, previously unconscious, very deep soul structures are revealed, structures associated with the instinctual parts of the soul. This level is patterned only by the most primitive ego structures, originating from experiences in early life. Inquiry into this manifestation reveals it to be the libidinal soul oriented towards external sources of gratification, an orientation that automatically alienates it from the truth of Being. This alienation is always present unconsciously, but at some point can be seen and felt directly as a deficient, hungry emptiness, inherent to the libidinal soul.
Investigating this manifestation while experiencing it as a primitive structure of the soul, I recognize that its main quality is attachment. In other words, this nauseating-looking manifestation of the soul is the repository of all my attachments, in the various areas of my mind and life. I see these attachments very clearly. I see the state of attachment, the objects of attachment, and my hopes and desires regarding them. I live with this explicit manifestation of my attachments for several days. As my understanding regarding the various attachments and their dynamics and effects grows, the crystal heart reveals its nature and function.
In this process of investigating the crystal heart and the soul region of attachment, the nous attains a crystalline quality; now it can operate with concepts and beyond concepts. The clarity of the nous attains a freshness, and its spaciousness becomes a light-hearted absence of sensation. The sense of transparent clarity and precision dominates the glittering dance of colors, as the understanding goes beyond the qualities and into the fundamental nature of things.
I recognize that in the crystal heart there is complete absence of ego tendencies. The heart is crystal clear, without the slightest movement in any direction. In this state the heart is a manifestation of the nonconceptual clarity of Being: open, virginal and refreshingly cool. It has no position, negative or otherwise. I recognize this state of the heart as true detachment. I experience detachment from everything: relationships, pleasure, comfort, security, knowledge, essence, realization, enlightenment, ego, suffering, and so on.
The state involves a much more total letting-go than does the state of aloneness. Just as aloneness is a more complete freedom than separation, so is detachment a greater liberation of the heart than aloneness. In separation, my experience of myself is separate and autonomous from my experience of other people. It is freedom within the experience of relating. Aloneness emphasizes detachment from relationships; it is freedom from having to have relationships. I am myself regardless of relationships, whether there is relating or not. And since most of my attachments are to things involving relationships, I have been seeing detachment in terms of aloneness.
This new detachment is from more than relationships; it is detachment from everything. Detachment includes aloneness, but goes much further. It is the absence of hope and longing for the objects of attachment, and for the pleasures and comforts they promise, without rejection or judgment. There is full openness to enjoy what is present to the heart and consciousness, yet when an experience is over, consciousness does not dwell on it. There is absence of clinging and mental preoccupation, before and after an experience of enjoyment.
As this understanding clarifies my consciousness, the crystal heart fills both chest and belly. I feel more accepting of the heart in the clear crystal form. As a result, I can see it more fully, recognizing details I have not seen before. Its foundation is crystalline silver and gold, indicating the presence of personal essential will, and essential truth, both beyond concepts. That night, it manifests other qualities, qualities I am already acquainted with as those of the heart. I see the beautiful colors of gold, pink, yellow, grenadine, turquoise, amber, orange, apricot, honey, and so on, as flashings of the facets of the crystal heart. Perceiving the dance of these crystal clear colors, I taste the various kinds of sweetness these heart qualities possess.
I notice that this manifestation of Being arises in a space both black and clear, where the clarity and the blackness alternately dominate.
The crystal heart is now a complete heart, whose essence is clear transparent detachment, and whose manifestations are the sweetnesses of the various forms of love.
A strawberry infinity
A delicious eternity
That is the heart.
A couple of days later…
The inquiry into detachment continues as I learn more about the crystal heart. Today, it focuses on my attachment to the opposite sex. I have had this attachment all my life. I always felt that I loved women, I always wanted to be with a woman. It began with my mother, and now I am with my wife. I am happily married, and fulfilled. Nevertheless, I am aware of a strong attachment to being with her, and having physical contact. I remember how much I have always loved sleeping with the woman I am with, and how greatly I enjoy feeling the warmth of the skin contact. This love and enjoyment reveals a deep attachment, a profound desire for contact, specifically for the female body. The attachment divulges a deep ego structure, which appears as the return of the ego-line in the form of a plastic tube full of the gooey substance of the false personality. The sense of plastic indicates hope for the satisfactions that this attachment promises, a hope based on the false beliefs of the personality.
Tears flood the consciousness, a black ocean of tears. Sadness softens the plastic contraction, and I begin to feel the surrender. I realize the question is not only attachment to sex, pleasure and company. There is something powerful and deep about the desire for physical contact, sleeping together, the physical warmth. This attachment has so far felt too powerful for me to resist. It is becoming clearer, however, that not only these satisfactions, but even their promise, is paltry. The pleasure, the warmth, the various sensations and feelings of satisfaction pale in comparison to the exquisite delicacies and delights that only Being can provide.
At first the tears are about aloneness and letting go of attachments. Then it becomes clear that at a deeper level, they are caused by the attachments. The attachments are a great betrayal of Being. They are equivalent to turning away from what is true.
The tears overflow now. They are not about recognizing the need to let go of the objects and promise of attachments, but because the attachments indicate how I have not fully valued the preciousness of Being. This recognition illuminates the awareness that my attachments obscure the value and the preciousness of the inner realm, the land of truth. It is this that hurts me most.
The contraction in the heart melts, allowing essence to arise in delicate streams of exquisite qualities. Instead of a plastic tube, I see and feel a fluid of two colors, transparent amber and white brilliance. The amber tastes sweet, reminding me of the value of Being; and the white brilliance feels exquisitely delicate, expressing its incomparable preciousness.
Yet, I feel this is only the beginning of working on attachments. It is clear to me that it will be a prolonged and difficult struggle.
One night later…
The understanding of detachment, and recognition of the things I am attached to, are deepening into the realization that I have to let go of even subtler and more basic things. The understanding is making it imperative for me to let go of things I have never thought one can let go of. The letting go has to be total. I need to let go of practically everything: a state, a station, fruit of work, contribution, position, recognition, everything.
With this realization I begin to be aware of a deep, deep sadness and grief. The depth of the sadness feels infinite, an endless dark ocean of tears. This letting go allows me to see that I must let go of everything because none of it is mine. I, as the individual consciousness, own nothing, have nothing, am nothing. I feel so empty, so impoverished, so lacking that I cannot claim to possess anything, not even existence. This is not a state of ego deficiency or self-devaluation, and there is no sense of self-pity in it. It is a heartfelt, immediate realization of a fundamental truth of the individual soul. It is the recognition of the objective situation: the individual self owes everything to Being, for Being is the true source of everything. It is Being that possesses existence, reality, intelligence, qualities, capacities, and so on. I, the individual self, have these available to me only when I am open to Being. On my own, I am absolutely indigent, totally helpless, completely hopeless, thoroughly inadequate. I am nothing but a limp, empty bag.
The sadness deepens, and the tears feel like a dark, cleansing, torrential rain. I am not sad because I must let go of everything that has been dear to me. I am not grieving because I recognize all this does not belong to me, that I am ultimately poor. No, I am sad now about recognizing I have lived a lie, that I have usurped what does not belong to me. The sadness is for the hurt of recognizing that by believing such a lie I have cut myself off from Being, my source and nature. I have estranged myself, throughout most of my life, from the source of all meaning and nourishment, with the ego-pride that I have, that I possess, that I do, that I accomplish, that I exist. What a lie, and what a shame!
I am sad, but also willing to accept the truth of my situation. I embrace my total emptiness. I welcome my complete, fundamental poverty.
I have nothing. I do nothing. I am nothing.
The state becomes a sense of having nothing, being nothing, feeling nothing, perceiving nothing. Darkness deepens, blackness fills awareness.
At this point, I notice that the indigent emptiness is no longer indigent; I experience it now as an endlessness of peace, an infinity of release, and a completeness of rest.
I realize that by totally welcoming its objective emptiness, the individual self has surrendered its existence into the mysterious depths of the absolute. The emptiness of the self, which I have experienced on many levels as various kinds of insufficiency, and which I have just been feeling as poverty, reveals itself as the complete lightness and freedom of the black crystalline truth. The poverty is nothing but the inexhaustible void, which I have misunderstood by experiencing it through the lie of my independent existence and capacity. As I, the individual self, accept my poverty and relinquish my hold, I in effect accept and embrace the complete voidness of the absolute. Here, I recognize that I am the absolute depth of Being, the source of all plenums.
The infinity of silence is what remains: luminous stillness, absolute transparency, and indescribable intimacy.
Vast black sadness,
Hot ocean of tears.
The unknowable void.